Medieval Matters: Magna Carta at 800

This is an Archive of a Past Event

*Please note room change. Event will now be held in: CEMEX Auditorium, Knight Management Center*

Medieval Matters is a series of public lectures co-sponsored by Stanford Continuing Studies, the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Office for Religious Life, and the community group The Sarum Seminar. It explores the relevance of medieval history and culture to understanding the modern world.

Magna Carta at 800
The year 1215 has resonated down the ages as a landmark in England’s constitutional history—in that year, feudal barons forced King John to agree to the charter known as Magna Carta. Magna Carta’s most fundamental chapters remain on the Statute Book of the United Kingdom to this day. The charter laid down that taxes were not to be levied without the consent of the kingdom, facilitated the spread of the common law, and established the principle that no one was to be denied justice. Above all, Magna Carta asserted a fundamental principle: the king was subject to the law. Four centuries later, England’s fundamental concepts of liberty were transplanted to the American colonies. Did the Framers have Magna Carta in mind as they crafted the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and our own Bill of Rights?
The year 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In this program, two noted historians will discuss the original context of Magna Carta in medieval England, its legacy down the centuries in Britain, and its role in the founding of the United States.

David Carpenter
Professor of Medieval History, King’s College London
David Carpenter’s new book on Magna Carta will be published in 2015. As part of the multi-university Magna Carta Project, he is translating and analyzing the various versions of the charter to understand how it was interpreted at the time. 

Jack Rakove
William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies; Professor of Political Science, Stanford
Jack Rakove’s books include Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, for which he received a Pulitzer Prize, and Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America.